I’m a bit disappointed by Common Lisp. I don’t know what I expected, but it’s not quite the language I would like it to be.

It’s not that CL’s a bad language – it’s just so… ugly, really. For a Lisp at least. And a bit unfriendly, too. To beginners like me at least.

An example:

The C-way of initializing a window using the OpenGL GLUT library (a simple windowing framework) is something like that:

glutInit(&argc, argv);
glutInitWindowSize(600, 480);
glutCreateWindow("window title");

Imperative programming in it’s purest form. There’s always some invisible global state getting manipulated. That’s also the case for programming in OpenGL in general. It sure is a bit ugly, and basically un-testable. A lisp should be able to come up with something better, right?

That’s what it looks like in Common Lisp:

(glut:init-window-size 600 480)
(glut:create-window "window title)

So, that’s obviously a very low-level binding, which would be fine – if it wasn’t a bit too low-level.

Almost everything in GLUT works via callbacks. To register a callback in C, one would just pass a function pointer to the particular GLUT-function:

void render(void)

int main(int argc, char** argv)

Fair enough. In Common Lisp, a language which – unlike C – does have first-class functions, I can’t get that to work. The CL-GLUT bindings also want a function pointer – like, a C function pointer.

; doesn't work
(glut-render-func (lambda () ( [...] )))

; doesn't work
(defun render ()
  ( [...] ))
(glut-render-func #'render)

As I said, I’m new to CL – so maybe I’m doing something horribly wrong. I’m pretty sure I’m not, however. Because there is a higher level interface to GLUT: a class. Which is not Java-style bad, because CL has a much better object system – but it isn’t exactly what I dreamed of, either.

Especially so since the CLOS (Common Lisp Object System) is, like CL in general, quite verbose:

; sub-class glut:window
(defclass main-window (glut:window)
  (:default-initargs :width 600 :height 480 :title "window title"
                     :mode '(:single :rgb :depth)))

; run before glut:display
(defmethod glut:display-window :before ((window main-window))
  (gl:clear-color 0 0 0 0))

; yay, rendering, at last!
(defmethod glut:display ((window main-window))

Again, it’s not bad – in fact, the CLOS is probably one of the coolest object systems around. Where else do you have things like :before (defining things to run before some method runs) or true multi-dispatched methods?

It just looks so… well, ugly.

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